August 29th, 2008

Human Consciousness (Free Will?)

We have the capacity to memorize things; our brain stores visual and audio stimulus.
We have the capacity to learn technical skills.
We have the ability to respond to stimulus...

But does everything we're capable of doing really give us "free will", or are all our actions the result of stimulus combined with programming forged by our memories and experiences?

Even something as simple as deciding whether or not you want a Pepsi or a Mountain Dew doesn't seem to be a "free choice". All the memories of having both drinks, combined with current mood and hunger levels, and countless pieces of stimulus would seem to push us into making a choice. Even an "on the whim" decision seems predetermined. Suppose I suddenly get a Diet Pepsi even though I don't like it. Taking into account the bland repetitive selctions of food available with a short selection of soft drinks available combined with a general feeling of restlessness and a desire for some sort of change, and then taking into account personality type, which was forged through a balance of genetics and a lifetime of experience, would seem to push me into making that decision into choosing that drink.

If someone calls you a "faggot", does your brain not light up all the mental connections your brain has with that word, it's definition, images of obnoxiously flamboyant men, past experiences of altercations where the word was uttered a few times, and with such an offensive remark, doesn't it go so far as to get the "flight or fight" mechanism ready to go?

I view our brains as little more than very complex computers, taking in countless stimulus 24 hours a day, processing it by running it through the collection of memories, skills, mentalities, and so forth, and producing a proper "if situation 'A' occurs, go with action 'B'" response to a situation much like the way a video game works, except with a near infinite number of "if, then" lines programmed in us, with an infinite amount of new lines to be programmed by the stimulus we bring in. Some might view that as a very depressing outlook on existance, but it really doesn't change anything.
thinking

on suffering

suffering is interesting. by this, i mean the concept, not the experience. if someone suffers some ill and then speaks openly about it (whether the person is hunting for pity or not is irrelevant), there always seems to be another person who feels the need to minimize that suffering by doing one of two things: either mentioning that there are other people (named or unnamed) who have suffered just as much if not worse, or by pointing out that he himself has suffered as much or more than the speaker. why is this? what is with this compulsion? isn't pain just pain, after all? does it need to be quantified? and, once quantified, does it then need to be compared to other pains and ranked accordingly? simply because there is a situation that is somewhat worse than another, does that invalidate the right of the person in the second situation to speak about a legitimate hardship?

a friend of mine from college told me about an incident where he foolishly mentioned losing his mother at twelve to cancer and how that had affected him as a teenager. he said he'd once been told by someone else that he didn't have a right to complain (he wasn't complaining, btw, just saying) because some people have lost both of their parents. now, while that is invariably true, was it absolutely necessary to bring up? is there some unspoken level of credibility that must be attained before once can speak about suffering?
  • Current Music
    nothing at the moment

Meat-a-t.... Carnivores.

A friend of mine is going to be vegetarian for 3 months, obviously for health and not moral reasons, and it brings me to my inner debate of whether meat eating is "moral" or not.

I will start this by saying that I did go vegetarian for a short period of time, after watching a movie that showed exactly what goes on in the processing of our meaty products. When I did this, it was more out of disgust by the treatment of the animals before they're turned into food, and also for health reasons not related to weight. Anyway...

Our modern world is somewhat characterized now by the "Green Movement." It pretty much deals with the notion that humanity's actions are harmful to the Ecosphere that we're part of, and that the Ecosphere is more important that humanity's desires. One of the ideas that belongs to this movement is that eating meat is morally unjustified, and that vegetarianism/veganism is a life style that us humans should follow in order to live with a clean conscience. I feel the need to challenge that, and point out why I'd say meat-eating is morally justified.

First of all, there's the subject of natural order. A lot of animals consume other animals - thusly, they eat meat. They also benefit from it, and they don't think twice about it. Therefore, the act of meat-eating is part of the natural order. A lot of people on the subject of eating meat don't denounce animals for eating meat, yet they'll complain about humans consuming animals. Wouldn't that be a slightly hypocritical position?

Then these reasons seem to come up: 1- Humans have a moral capacity, and animals don't. Since eating meat is immoral, because it causes suffering, only humans have a moral obligation to stop. 2- The way that humans collect meat for eating, factory farming, is an inhumane industry that performs numerous acts of animal abuse.

Okay, so the first argument has two assumptions: Something that has no moral capacity can be excused for an immoral act, and that the act of causing suffering is inexcusable and immoral. First one can be dismissed since a child with no understanding of the law can steal a candy bar from the store and it will still be wrong, despite that the child doesn't have an understanding of right and wrong in that area at that point. The second point is refuted since the suffering is part of the natural order. Since the idea of stopping meat-eating is from the notion of preserving and following natural order, the position proves to be sort of hypocritical, right?

And for the second argument - I won't dispute this, obviously. Many groups in factory farming are responsible for foul treatment. This idea is to raise the fattest creatures rather than the healthiest. However, the fact that the means of obtaining meat for human consumption is flawed doesn't make it immoral itself. It simply means our obligation is not to force the world into a vegetarian lifestyle, but rather to correct the factory farming system through a series of laws that would reduce abuse and benefit the consumer, producer, and investor through better quality meat that comes from healthier animals, which would still have plenty of substance for consumption.

And, having addressed those arguments...
As mentioned earlier it is psychological, and I know it now to be the result of popular entertainment, surprisingly enough. Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, Pluto, Care Bears, Dark-Wing Duck... The list of cartoon characters who are animals goes on and on. Fact is, many of them have human appearance and personality, and are meant to embody the more positive aspects of OUR species. We're raised with those characters as little kids (when we're most influenced). This is installed in our heads at a young age, and then we grow up having an unnecessary sympathy toward furry non-humans, Combined with the foolish need to start revolutions whenever and wherever, groups like PETA (which incidentally is responsible for animal abuse itself) and the Animal Liberation Front (responsible for numerous acts of vandalism and terrorism towards scientific institutions) form and people start marching on streets like Nazis, even though they label animal shelters and disease research centers as Nazis.

It's all very backwards to me.